The Austin Chronicle

The Invasion

Rated PG-13, 96 min. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. Starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, Malin Akerman, Jackson Bond, Jeffrey Wright, Veronica Cartwright.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 24, 2007

It's almost impossible to think of a sci-fi story that speaks more eloquently to these paranoid, fearful, "iPod, youPod, we all pod for iPod" times than Jack Finney's Body Snatchers, the 1955 novel that spawned three excellent film adaptations and introduced the concept of "pod people" to the world at large. The Invasion is also based on Finney's Cold War antiheroics, and it's the first truly lousy film in the bunch. Shrieking with car chases and Molotov cocktail-wielding alien hoards, this Hollywood travesty suffers from an excess of bang-bang pizazz courtesy of the Wachowski Brothers and James McTeigue, who took over the directorial reins after the original cut by credited director Hirschbiegel (The Downfall) scored low with test audiences. The resulting film is promising in the early going: Kidman, dyed blond, plays Washington, D.C., shrink Carol Bennell. "My husband is not my husband," complains a patient (Cartwright, who also appeared in Philip Kaufman's 1978 Erhard Seminar-freakout version of the tale), a symptom less indicative of mental illness than you might think given that "my director is not my director." Space-borne spores, hitching a ride on a doomed space shuttle, are colonizing Earth on the down-low, and Dr. Bennell's ex-spouse and current Centers for Disease Control prevaricator (Northam) is already speaking in a monotone and demanding weekend custody of his young son (Bond). As luck and Dave Kajganich's way-too-pat screenplay would have it, Dr. Bennell's romantic interest is an M.D. (new James Bond Daniel Craig) who fast-tracks the investigation of the mystery disease, allowing Dr. Mom time to search for her suddenly vanished offspring. In the film's single nifty conceit, CNN reports that (presumably) newborn alien doppelgängers George W. Bush and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez are now best pals, pharmaceutical companies are distributing free AIDS drugs to Africa, and the war in Iraq has evaporated in a swell of abject rationalism, all thanks to the invasion's Mr. Spock-like neutering of messy human emotions. Woefully miscast, heavily re-edited at the 11th hour, and often tonally schizophrenic (one moment it's a subtle paranoid thriller the next an urban action movie), The Invasion is a textbook example of how not to remake a classic (or three). It's the pod people's version of a great, contemporaneously resonant cinematic fable, created by apparent committee, and utterly devoid of both meaning and feeling. The tagline warns: "Do not trust anyone. Do not show emotion. Do not fall asleep." Yawn.

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